Are chronic illness and wellness mutually exclusive? At first glance they appear to be complete opposites, don’t they? After all, who can be ill and well at the same time?
I started thinking about this because I was reading one of those “improve your blog” posts last week, and the author was answering a question about how many topics one should tackle on their blog. They then went on to say that you should never tackle topics that are contradictory. Of course, that’s because you run the risk of alienating half your readers.
As you probably know by now, this blog is about learning to thrive with Fibromyalgia. On Wednesdays, I write about general Wellness topics. There’s a reason for this — I believe that in order to truly thrive, whether ill or not, we have to have a Wellness mindset. I say this from personal experience.
For the first few years after I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, it pretty much ruled my life. Everything centered around just getting through each day, and not doing anything that might increase my pain or fatigue. This involved putting very strict controls on myself and my schedule. I was managing my pain to some degree, but I wasn’t really living.
Once I shifted to a Wellness mindset, everything changed. I went from just existing to actually living my life again.
What do I mean by a Wellness mindset? First, let’s take a look at the definition of Wellness.
According to UCDavis, “wellness is the process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. Wellness is more than being free from illness, it is a dynamic process of change and growth.” (https://shcs.ucdavis.edu/wellness/what-is-wellness) The National Wellness Institute adds that “wellness is multidimensional and holistic, encompassing lifestyle, mental and spiritual well-being, and the environment.” (https://www.nationalwellness.org/?page/Six_Dimensions)
Obviously, most people who read this blog aren’t “free from illness.” But being “free from illness” isn’t the only dimension of overall wellness. Did you notice the part of the definition that talked about “becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life”?
Don’t you love that part? So often, when we live with chronic illness, we feel we don’t have a lot of choice. We certainly didn’t choose to become ill, and we can’t choose what our bodies decide to do from one day to the next. We do, however, have a choice about whether we have an illness mindset or a wellness mindset.
For me, adopting a Wellness mindset meant that I moved from everything being geared toward managing my condition to living that “multidimensional, holistic, encompassing lifestyle” we talked about above.
The Difference Having a Wellness Mindset Makes with Chronic Illness
When we live with a chronic illness it’s easy, especially when symptoms are really horrible, to focus entirely on our illness and everything it’s stealing from us. This mindset allows our illness to continue to steal from us: our happiness, our mental health, our sense of purpose…. the list goes on.
When we make the choice to adopt a wellness mindset, we tend to focus on those things that help us feel better, improve our mental state, and live a fulfilling life, in spite of our circumstances.
When I decided to focus on Wellness instead of my illness, I didn’t stop abiding by my Self-Care Plan; I just learned to expand my comfort zone little by little. Now I look more at what’s going to help me live a life of purpose, improve my overall wellness, and enjoy life.
This doesn’t mean I don’t experience the excruciating flares or the overwhelming fatigue from time to time. Fibromyalgia is chronic – it may never go away. What it does mean is that I’m able to enjoy my life. Granted, it doesn’t look the same as my life pre-illness, but it’s a life filled with love and purpose. I can definitely live with that!
The Choice Is Ours
We don’t have a choice about our illnesses or how they affect our bodies, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have any choices. We do get to choose our mindset. Do we choose a Wellness Mindset or an Illness one? Which is going to serve us best?
Rather than seeing chronic illness and wellness as opposites, I see wellness as the piece that completes the puzzle of how to actually thrive while living with a life-changing, ongoing illness.
Do you feel Chronic Illness and Wellness are mutually exclusive? Do you find general wellness information helpful for dealing with your chronic illness? Please share!